Kalle Benallie
Indian Country Today

In late March and early April, the U.S. Department of Treasury hosted five tribal consultations with 85 tribal leaders to receive input on how to improve the allocation of funds for pandemic and economic relief.

The result was the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds Tribal Government Allocation Methodology, authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act, which provides $350 billion in emergency relief for state, local and tribal governments.

The rescue plan allocated $20 billion to tribes. Details about the allocation were shared Monday. The department hosted a briefing session Monday with tribal governments about the upcoming changes and adjustments for tribes to partake in the program.

A total of $1 billion will be allocated equally among eligible tribal governments and $19 billion will be divided by the Treasury. Of that, $12.35 billion will be allocated based on the tribe’s self-certified tribal enrollment from numbers submitted to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in April. The rest, $6.65 billion, will be based on self-certified tribal employment data from numbers submitted to the Treasury in May 2020 in connection with the CARES Act.

“We believe we developed an interim rule that is clear and thorough, while also being flexible to give discretion to address the diverse needs of tribal communities,” said Jacob Leibenluft, counselor to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

Casey Lozar, the Treasury Department’s senior policy advisor, said the department tried to make the process easier by expanding technical assistance options for tribal governments, launching a detailed web page about the funding and providing specific contact information for questions.

“We are so excited to be launching the program today, and we’re really eager to see these funds hit the street so tribes have the tools and resources to address the challenges facing our tribal communities, and assist in a strong economic recovery in Indian Country,” he said.

(Related: $31 billion represents ‘a massive opportunity’)

“Tribal governments have broad flexibility to decide how best to use this funding to meet the needs of your communities, and that is certainly something we heard in the tribal consultations last month,” Lozar said.

Tribal governments will have to use the Treasury Submission Portal and complete various requirements to receive the two payments. May 24 is the $1 billion equal allocation and “Enrollment Allocation” deadline. June 7 is the “Employment Allocation” deadline.

In short, tribes could start receiving money this week.

“I appreciate the administration’s hearing us and not treating us differently than the states in this rollout, which is very different than the CARES Act,” Aaron A. Payment, chairman of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, said at the end of the session.

The department will host a Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds information session for tribal governments on Thursday at 3:30 p.m ET. Registration is here.

This June 6, 2019, file photo shows the U.S. Treasury Department building at dusk in Washington. Multiple published reports say that the U.S. government has launched a national-security review of the China-owned video app TikTok, popular with millions of U.S. teens and young adults. Several senators have recently noted concerns about censorship and data collection on TikTok. The Treasury Department, which houses CFIUS, says it does not comment on specific cases. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

Last year some tribes had issues with the CARES Act methodology and sued the federal government.

The Shawnee Tribe in Oklahoma and the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians in Florida received the minimum $100,000 because the HUD data showed they had a population of zero.

As for the Eastern Shoshone Tribe in Wyoming, it had to scramble to spend their money in six months by the December 30 deadline, Savannah Maher from KUNM reported. Then days before the deadline, Congress passed an extension.

About $530 million CARES Act money remains, most of which is tied up in a Supreme Court case that centers on whether Alaska Native corporations are eligible for a share. Oral arguments took place in April. 

Indian Country Today - bridge logo

Our stories are worth telling. Our stories are worth sharing. Our stories are worth your support. Contribute $5 or $10 contribution today to help Indian Country Today carry out its critical mission. Sign up for ICT’s free newsletter. 

Correction: This story was corrected to show that the Eastern Shoshone Tribe had six months to spend its funds.